Replacement shift cable end for 1996-2002 Saturn SL/SL2/SW/SW2 manual shifter

by delsydsoftware, published

Replacement shift cable end for 1996-2002 Saturn SL/SL2/SW/SW2 manual shifter by delsydsoftware Dec 17, 2012
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Saturns are notorious for having issues with the manual shifter. Most of these problems revolve around a little rubber cap that holds the shift cable in place. A few solutions were offered in the aftermarket, including a steel bushing that was for sale on eBay for a while (and may still be).

The steel bushing corrected the design issue, but introduced another issue. It has a tendency to put so much torque on the shift cable that the plastic end of the cable breaks off. This is a huge problem, because it means buying a $200+ cable and spending a few hours installing it, only to have the shift cable end pop off again.

This happened to me a few years ago, and I decided to re-attach the broken end by drilling a hole in the steel cable and attaching the old cable end with a bolt and nut. (see http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/showthread.php?t=122577 for the original discussion). This fix worked for 4 years, until the shift cable failed at another place.

After replacing the shift cable, the end popped off again. This time, I decided to design and print a replacement. My model is significantly stronger than the original, and seems to improve the feel of the shifter as well.


Print the part off with 100% infill. I used Makerbot Nuclear Green, since it is fluorescent. This allowed me to use a UV light to check for wear on the linkage when I was testing it (see the picture of my hand covered in nuclear green ABS dust and lit by a UV flashlight). If you do not have the steel bushing kit I mentioned before, you may need to scale this model up or down slightly to fit the original rubber bushing. I haven't tested it with the original bushing.

Sand the inside of the eyelet smooth with 320 grit sandpaper. Drill a vertical hole in the shift cable end, about a centimeter from the end of the cable. You don't have to make the hole too big. The end of the cable is hardened steel, so you will probably need a decent bit to get through it. A cordless dremel is strong enough to do the job, with a full charge. Attach the eyelet with a bolt mounted in the top of the eyelet. You don't need to use a nut on the bottom, since the position of the eyelet in the shift linkage will prevent the bolt from coming out.

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I think it's hilarious that I searched for "shifter bushing" and it came up with this. I just happen to have a '91 Saturn SL1 and the little plastic bushing keeps popping out. I was tired of paying $18 every time I wanted to replace it because I knew deep down that it was such a cheap piece to manufacture. This is one of the main reasons that I bought a 3d printer in the first place. Electrical tape can only hold up for so long in the heat so, I'm going to try to design a new bushing with a better grip on the coupling that you had to replace. Hopefully it will be more of a "plug-and-play" part than the piece of crap that AAP sells.

Be sure to slather it in some sort of teflon-based lubricant. It helps quite a bit. I did end up having to replace this printed eyelet a couple months ago. It didn't fail, but it did have a nasty crack in it. Luckily, I printed a spare. :)

Thanks! I'll definitely give that a shot.

Should be the same for a Saturn SL-1 too right? I have a hard time getting into the second gear when downshifting. (Plus the shifter has broke loose before)

It should be the same for the SL-1. Grinding in 2nd (or 4th for that matter) is a sign that the shift cable has stretched or gone bad in some other way. The grinding will eventually start to affect 4th gear as well --- the shift cable has to move further to engage 4th than 2nd gear, so 2nd gear will grind first. This same thing happened to me, which led me to replace the shift cables back in 2012. If you have that aftermarket steel bushing, rest assured that the eyelet will eventually pop off, so I'd still print out a copy of this eyelet just to be on the safe side.

Also, I'm coming up on 2 years with this fix, and it's still working great with no signs of wear :)